When our founders, Ish and Brad decided to build their business, they wanted to create something that was bigger than just themselves. A business that really had people at its heart. They’d always had a passion for a person’s ability to do great things and they wanted to harness this not only through the work that Aston Holmes would do, but also in the teams they would build around them.
That’s why we build our teams here at Aston Holmes, and our business, on the basis of the “Ubuntu” philosophy. For many across Africa, and particularly in South Africa, this will be a familiar concept, but for those who are less acquainted with the term, we’ve built our business culture around a single phrase that represents the Ubuntu philosophy: “I am who I am because of who we all are.”
Ubuntu comes from a Zulu phrase, which translates as ‘a person is a person through other people.’ The word embodies a sense of community, a society built in the knowledge that what makes us human is each other. Our humanity is something we can only truly experience through the eyes of someone else. An idea that, through recognising and appreciating the unique differences between each other, we can create something much bigger than ourselves.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines it perfectly “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
We’ve built our team on the basis that we are all connected and what each of us does will affect the other. If we are generous, grateful, humble, respectful and do well then, in turn, we will all do well. If we all support each other to succeed we, in turn, will succeed as a result. By working together, we build a place of work that is happy and supportive. By doing so, we develop each other, learn from each other and deliver higher quality work to our customers. It also means we all have a vested interest in giving all of our clients and customers the best experience possible.
By improving and enriching ourselves, we can positively impact the lives of those around us. We are all influencers of positive change and we are all responsible for each other’s wellbeing and success, but that change and positivity must first start with ourselves. We’re in a unique position as a Talent Acquisition consultancy to use this philosophy in a really powerful way and it is particularly important as it links directly to our overarching purpose as a business: to “improve the lives of others through work.” Our ubuntu philosophy is a natural extension of our purpose and supports us in achieving this.
Ubuntu is what underpins our culture here at Aston Holmes. It’s something that we’re all passionate about, gives us the belief that we’re all in it together and reminds us that our thoughts, feelings and actions impact everyone around us. We can only consciously effect positive change through each other.
A practical way we embody our philosophy is through our shared ownership scheme. We view our people not just as employees, but as our family and because of this, it’s really important to us that our people share in our success and feel part of the business and the philosophy we’re trying to build. That’s why we offer them a share option scheme and it’s why all our people really feel like a part of our journey.
We’re really proud of the culture we’ve created over the last few years but the one thing we’re still working on is how we keep the culture, and the philosophy that underpins it, authentic and meaningful as our business grows. If anyone in our networks has any advice on how to maintain a strong culture as we grow, we’d love to hear from you.